DICKIE ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR
In the 1970s, Dickie Roberts (David Spade) was the idol of the nation as a cute young sitcom star. As an adult, his career has nosedived, and he supports himself working at a carpark when not making brief, humiliating TV appearances trading on his former fame. Things seem to be looking up when he has a chance for a part in a big new movie, but heís rejected on the grounds that he isnít a "real person" Ė since he never had a proper childhood, he canít convincingly function as an adult. In a last-ditch attempt to save his career, Dickie comes up with the plan of living for a month with an ordinary family who will treat him as a child, so that he finally has a chance to grow up for real.
Review by Jake Wilson:
David Spade is an expert at arch insincerity, but when it comes to pathos heís no Charlie Chaplin; he needs a sympathetic performer to bounce off, since itís hard to imagine any audience caring less about the plight of this horrid little twerp. So how are we meant to respond to the lachrymose scenes in Dickie Roberts: Child Star where the hero looks soulfully past the camera and talks about his need to be loved?
And what about the hilariously awful-sounding film-within-a-film that Dickie wants to star in, a "high concept" fable in which a man literally discovers heaven in his own backyard? Is all this meant to be ironic Ė and if so, when do we laugh?
There are many moments in this witless low comedy where itís hard to fathom just what the filmmakers were thinking; even the joke announced in the title isnít developed according to any clear logic. It might have been funny if the adult Dickie clung to the cloying mannerisms that originally got him noticed, or if his showbiz upbringing had turned him into a catchphrase-spouting automaton like Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy. But in the event Dickie simply registers as a whiny stoner who thinks the world owes him a living Ė much as Spade expects the audience to forgive his laziness as actor and writer.
Indeed, the film only makes sense as an attempt (however feeble) at self-analysis: the early scenes where Dickie struggles to revive his career surely reflect Spadeís own experiences on the lower rungs of the celebrity ladder, and while weíre eventually meant to believe that Dickie has matured, his creator remains cut off from any emotion that canít be conveyed with a smirk. The sexual undercurrents of the story are a whole other issue, though they also seem personal, or at least distinctive. Any movie where the hero dresses as a child, falls in love with his "mother", and repeatedly seems sexually disturbed by barely pubescent girls...well, perhaps itís best not to speculate. If youíre that interested in David Spade, you work it out.
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DICKIE ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR (M)
CAST: David Spade, Doris Roberts, Jon Lovitz, Alyssa Milano, Craig Bierko, Mary McCormack, Scott Terra, Jenna Boyd, Nicholas Schwerin
PRODUCER: Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler
DIRECTOR: Sam Weisman
SCRIPT: Fred Wolf, David Spade
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas E. Ackerman
EDITOR: Roger Bondelli
MUSIC: Christophe Beck, Waddy Wachtel
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dina Lipton
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 19, 2004